For some time now, and more intensely in the last few weeks, Michael Siegel has been railing against the insanity of the modern tobacco control movement (as exemplified by American Lung Association, American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids). The only reason Action of Smoking and Health US is not on that list is that as counterproductive as those other organizations are, they do not even begin to approach the almost pre-literate and certainly pre-logical infantile mulings and screechings of Banzhaf’s self serving vehicle. I may not agree with Siegel’s actual yardstick (“Frankly, there is no longer any difference between the agenda that these groups are supporting and that of Philip Morris. And that is a sad thing.”) but would rather argue that the real problem here is a lack of internal consistency.
One reason that I disagree with Siegel’s parallelism is that what presently seems to be the case is that tobacco companies are developing safer alternatives while these organizations with the help of the FDA seem to be doing everything they can too discourage them. In other words, tobacco companies are working to improve public health while these organizations that profess to be working for that aim are actually discouraging any products that do not originate with pharmaceutical companies, and working to maintain the information barriers about any safer alternatives. (Strangely enough, these organizations also tend to promote pharmaceutically aided quitting over unaided quitting even though the latter has been found to be much more lasting).
If the above mentioned public health organizations had as their mandate to maintain the present levels of disease and death associated with smoking (and even though their funding derives from the continuing sales of cigarettes I will not even mention in passing that that could possibly be a factor), what would their policies look like?
I imagine they would 1. discourage any alternatives (like smokeless tobacco products or electronic cigarettes) that might make nicotine use safer 2. if they cannot make them illegal make sure that people think they are no safer 3. support regulations that do not conform to any other product information guidelines and demand that producers describe their products as more dangerous than they are.
And in this regard, they have been quite successful in making sure that little headway is made while at the same time giving the impression that they are valiantly fighting on our behalf.
And while these anti-tobacco organizations will embrace any pseudo-science that demonstrates exaggerated dangers of 2nd and 3rd hand smoke, they fight any measures that would actually reduce those effects.
None of this is really news, and perhaps the strangest thing of all is that the average person still thinks these organizations are working for the greater good. But what can you possibly think of an organization that on one hand loves to repeat that over 400,000 Americans are dying every year from smoking and on the other does all they can to keep people from moving themselves out of the group most likely to contribute to that number? Or what can you think of a federal agency that decries the health damages due to cigarettes, then sets up a board to deal with the problem, and then populates the board with individuals who have devoted their careers to fighting the best solutions to that problem?
It is time for us to rebrand these organizations. By their actions, they can no longer be identified as anti-smoking or anti-tobacco (since they fight solutions that would reduce smoking and tobacco use); they can only really be described properly as anti-social.